What is Sci-Fi Weekender?
Madness descends upon a quiet, seaside holiday park in northern Wales, just a short drive from Pwhelli and near Snowdonia. For three days (Thursday-Saturday, missing Sunday which I found odd for a 'Weekender' event but hey ho) all the main structures were taken over by stages, computer gaming stations, vendors, cosplayers and board gamers.
In the evenings, shows and concerts abound, merging traditional festival style performances with geek culture.
They're gearing up for their tenth year running, and you can find out more information on their website.
Who was there?
The Retro Computer Museum in Leicester had a gaming station set up where you could try out all sorts of consoles, from Atari to Commodore to PS1, and even Pong. You can find out more about them and how to support their work here.
The Galactic Knights were also out in full force, giving demonstrations and running orc boot camps for attendees. They're a cosplaying group of the highest caliber, focusing on sci-fi and fantasy primarily.
Telos Publishing, one of the event sponsors, was out in full force, with several of its authors giving talks and selling their books.
Skaro was strongly represented, with hordes of Daleks running amok. The evening was also full of talented performers, such as Area 51's dancers.
Where did we stay?
On site! As SFW takes over an entire holiday park, you never need leave the premises. There's plenty of decent accommodation, several small shops, a pub, and other restaurants to choose from.
We did pop to Pwhelli for some loo roll and a towel, which isn't included in your accommodation. So be mindful of that. No kitchen roll, either. If we could do it all over again, I probably also would have brought space heaters and draught excluders. It was brutally cold and the heaters in the flat could only do so much. The windows were so draughty that you could watch the curtains move.
All the ventilation is probably lovely during the summer, which is obviously peak time for this holiday park, but in March it makes for some rather crisp mornings.
Which characters did we cosplay?
The partner and I made a couples' cosplay as Lone Star and Princess Vespa from Spaceballs. However, as Vespa's dress is a bit short on fabric, and most of it is gauzy sheers and lace, I took a miss on trotting it out, so the partner followed suit in frozen solidarity.
Others' cosplay was absolutely amazing. The Warhammer armour was larger than life, and someone had put together a very well articulated alien-from-Alien costume. Lord of the Rings and Star Trek were well represented, and there were Doctors and Daleks in spades, though Star Trek was oddly sparse.
The level of craftsmanship was stunning, and really inspiring.
Was there anything to eat?
As mentioned above, there were several restaurants on site. Starbucks, Burger King, Papa Johns, a fish and chips shop, a full pub, and hot food counters in the mini markets made for a wide variety of choices.
We chose to make use of the full kitchen in our flat, however, and self-catered (when we weren't running the oven with the door open to provide a little extra warmth!).
The partner and I were a little underwhelmed, possibly by being previously spoilt in Atlanta, with its plethora of high quality, serious business cons. As some content seemed to not happen and was not well sign posted, it can be a little hard to find one's footing as a first timer. The board gaming was a little small, and the guest list wasn't the most impressive.
It also seemed to focus slightly more on the nightlife aspects, such as the DJs and concerts, which the partner and I aren't really into, being prematurely OAP in our taste in entertainment. So there wasn't a whole lot for us to do after about 6pm, which made for some chilly, early nights.
Normally for a con, this wouldn't be an issue, but SFW also lacked the sort of frantic schedule that leaves you satisfactorily worn out after a long day of panels, workshops, and speakers.
This feeling of being underwhelmed seems to so far be a trend in the UK con scene, which I've touched on previously. Again, I'm not suggesting that this sort of events management is easy, but at the same time, much smaller cons like WHOlanta, Treklanta, and CONjuration all seem to pull off a much more cohesive, jam-packed, exciting programme.
The partner and I have discussed this at length, and can't seem to pinpoint what it is that seems to take the wind out of the sails over here. If anyone had any theories, I'd love to hear them.